Boss Carlos Carvalhal has dismissed the notion his Sheffield Wednesday side are underdogs ahead of their trip to in-form Aston Villa.
The two teams meet at Villa Park this afternoon with nine places and six points separating them in the Championship standings.
Villa have surged into the play-off positions after recording an impressive six victories from their last eight matches. Steve Bruce’s charges are unbeaten on home soil this season and will fancy their chances of picking up another positive result, having lost just one of their last 12 league fixtures.
Carvalhal told The Star: “We are not underdogs. We were in the first season but after this, we created responsibility because of the speed at which we grew up.
“We are not underdogs anymore; we created our brand, we take responsibility and all the games in our competition will be at the minimum 50-50.”
Former Sheffield United boss Bruce, pictured below, has won eight of his 12 managerial meetings with Wednesday, including the 2016 Championship play-off final at Wembley with Hull City.
Carvalhal has described Bruce’s Villa team as the best side in the division.
The genial Portuguese chief does not have fond memories from his last visit to Villa Park. The Owls fell to a 2-0 defeat and Carvalhal was sent off for his strong protests to referee Lee Probert following Vincent Sasso’s dismissal. The French defender was given his marching orders after a late challenge on midfielder Conor Hourihane, who Wednesday tried to buy in the January transfer window.
“My memories are not good (of the last meeting),” admitted Carvalhal. “The referee did very bad work in that game.
“We should have had a penalty when we played 10 against 11. It was bad. “I was sent off also like Sasso. I don’t have good memories of the game but it’s in the past.”
Despite the Owls’ inconsistent form, Carvalhal remains convinced the team have what it takes to be involved in the promotion shake-up.
He said: “We are there and not far away from the first positions.
“The competition is very hard. You saw there were some clubs who were down below us five games ago and now they are with five or six more points.
“There are teams that were nine points from us and are now near us.
“There are 12 teams who want direct promotion and they have abilities to achieve that.
“And you have the outsiders who play without pressure and are doing well. There are two or three outsiders. The teams are very balanced and losing points to each other.
“We must do our part, achieving points. We had a bad moment. It is not something we have achieved since we arrived at Sheffield Wednesday but we have time.”
Jack Hunt is pushing for a first-team recall after being dropped to the bench against Millwall. He could replace Liam Palmer at right-back.
Daniel Pudil remains a major doubt because of the hamstring problem he aggravated versus Barnsley.
After ending a run of 24 league matches without scoring, Jordan Rhodes will be hoping to spearhead the attack for the second fixture running.
As for Villa, Jonathan Kodjia (ankle) could be involved while fellow attacker Jack Grealish has recovered from a kidney injury.